## Symmetry and reflection

This week I’ve been working on symmetry and reflection with my year 9s. As part of this we looked at creating some Rangoli style patterns that had symmetries. After discussing how to reflect shapes in mirror lines and drawing some reflections I shower them some pictures of Rangoli patterns and gave out some squares of squared paper with various mirror lines on and some coloured pencils and gave them some time to get to work.

I was interested to see some of the different approaches. Most just used the squares to create patterns in the first instance. Of these there were two basic approaches, A – complete a pattern in one quarter and reflect into the other quadrants. B – each time they coloured a square they reflected it. I would have opted for option B I think, but watching the class work it seems those who used method A made less mistakes.

There were a couple of students who didn’t just colour squares, they created some triangles, trapeziums and other shapes in their patterns. They all took approach A.

*I’d be interested to hear how you would approach this.*

Once we had some patterns we looked at them as a class on the visualiser, discussing their approaches, what we liked about each one finding mistakes, looking at the reflective symmetries and also discussing rotational symmetry too.

Here are some of the patterns:

This student did a quadrant at a time then shaded what was left in blue when I told them time was nearly up.

This student was doing 4 squares at a time. I like the fact each quadrant is symmetrical too. (I know technically it’s not a symmetrical pattern, but it would.have been had we had a minute or 2 more!)

This student did a bit at a time and reflected each bit in the diagonal line.

I liked all three of these, and they gave rise to a good discussion as they had all gone for more than 2 lines of symmetry and all had rotational symmetry too. More than half of the students had done this, and I wonder if that’s because the Rangoli patterns I had shown them had also done this.

Unfortunately a lot of the others opted to take their work home and I didn’t think to take photos first as there were some awesome patterns.

## Constructions

One topics I have never been a fan of teaching is constructions. I think that this is due to a few factors. Firstly, there is the practical nature of the lesson, you are making sure all students in the class have, essentially, a sharp tool that could be used to stab someone. I remember when I was at school a pair of compasses being used to stab a friend of mines leg and this is something I’m always wary of.

Secondly, the skill of constructing is one that I struggled to master myself. I was terrible at art, to the point where an art teacher kept me back after class in year 8 to ask why I was spoken about in the staffroom as the top of everyone else’s class but was firmly at the bottom of his. I explained that I just couldn’t do it, although it was something I really wished I could do. He was a lovely man and a good teacher and he offered to allow me to stay back every Monday after our lesson and have some one to one sessions. I was keen and did it, this lasted all through year 8 and although my art work never improved my homework grades did, as he now knew I was genuinely trying to get better. I have always assumed the reason I am poor at art is some unknown issue with my hand to eye coordination, and I have always blamed this same unknown reason for struggling sometimes with the technical skills involved in constructions. Since coming into teaching I have worked hard to improve at these skills, and I am certainly a lot lot better than I used to be, but I still feel I have a way to go to improve.

For these reasons I chose to go to Ed Southall’s (@solvemymaths) session “Yes, but constructions” at the recent #mathsconf19. Ed had some good advice about preparation and planning, but most of that was what I would already do:

*Ensure you have plenty of paper, enough equipment that is in good working order, a visualiser etc.*

*Plan plenty of time for students to become fluent with using a pair of compasses before moving on.*

He then moved on to showing us some geometric patterns he gets students to construct while becoming familiar with using the equipment. Some of these were ones I’d not considered and he showed us good talking points to pick out and some interesting polygons that arise. The one I liked best looked like this:

*This is my attempt at it, I used different coloured bic pens in order to outline some of the shapes under the visualiser.*

The lesson was successful, the class can now all use a pair of compasses and we managed to have some great discussions about how we knew that the shapes we had made were regular and other facts about them.

Next week we need to move on to looking at angle bisectors, perpendicular bisectors, equilateral triangles, and the such. I hope to get them constructing circumcircles of triangles, in circles of triangles and circles inscribed by squares etc.

Here are some more of my attempts at construction:

“Constructing an incircle” – I actually did this one in Ed’s session!

“A circumcircle” – I drew the triangle too big and the circle goes off the page. Interesting to note the centre is outside the triangle for this one.

“A circle inscribed within a square” – this is difficult. Constructing a square is difficult and that is only half way there if that. This is the closest I have got so far and two sides are not quite tangent.

“A flower” – nice practice using a pair of compasses and this flower took some bisectors too.

*If you have any ideas for cool things I can construct, and that I can get my students to construct, please let me know in the comments or on social media.*

## Saturday puzzle

One of the first things I saw this morning when I awoke was this post from solve my maths on facebook:

That’s interesting I thought, so I thought it have a go.

The radius is given to be 2. So we have an equilateral triangle side length 2. Using my knowledge of triangle and exact trig ratios I know the height of such a triangle is root 3 and as such so is the area.

Similarly, as the diagonal of the rectangle is 2 and the short side is 1 we can work out from Pythagoras’s Theorem that the longer side is root 3. And again it follows that so is the area.

Lastly we have the square, the diagonal is 2 and as such each side must be root 2, again this is evident from Pythagoras’s Theorem this gives us an area of 2.

Which leaves us a nice product of the areas as 6.

*I think* *that is correct, I’ve justvwoken up nd this post has been my working, so do about up if you spot an error. And I’d love to hear if youbsolved it a different way.*

## Oblongs

Last week while we were waiting for a swimming lesson to start my daughter told me that one of her teachers had got “higgledy piggledy” about oblongs. I asked what she meant and she said that she’d accidentally called one a rectangle and had to correct herself and had informed the class that at her last school she’d had to call them rectangles but at this school had to call them oblongs and sometimes got higgledy piggledy about this. I asked my daughter why they couldn’t call them rectangles and she said that it was because squares can be rectangles too.

This set off a lengthy chain of thoughts in my head. Firstly, I was quite impressed by the fact a 5 year old could articulate all this about knowledge about shapes so well. Then I thought, does it really matter whether they call them oblongs or rectangles? Then I thought, wait a minute, why are we prohibiting the use of rectangle because it can also mean a square, but we are not prohibiting the use of oblong when it can also mean an ellipse? My chain of thought then jumped down a rabbit hole questioning whether we should actually be referring to regular or equilateral rectangular parallelograms and non – regular/equilateral parallelograms. Why are we allowing children to call a shape a triangle, when it is one possible type of triangle in a family of triangles, but not allowing them to call a shape a rectangle when it is only one possible rectangle in a family of rectangles. These thoughts stewed around in my head for a while and I thought I’d ask the twittersphere for their opinions on the matter.

These opinions fell into a couple of camps. The first cam thought that oblong was a nice enough word and they didn’t mind others using it but preferred not to themselves. The second camp felt that it was important to distinguish between an oblong and a square so important to use oblong not rectangle and the third camp thought that actually it was better to use rectangles due to the elliptical oblongs. I questioned some of the respondents from the second two groups a little further to see why they fell into these groups. Those in the second seemed unaware that the word oblong also meant ellipse and those in the third thought it was more important to excluded ellipses than squares. Stating that it was easy enough to explain away the special case that is the square.

I’ve spend rather a lot of time considering this, and am now not really sure what I think on the issue. I can’t see a problem with using a rectangle and explaining away the square as a special case. We call all triangles triangles and expand as and when required. No one bothers about calling a non-rectangular parallelogram a parallelogram, despite the fact that that could mean a rectangle. But again I’m not sure I’m massively strongly against the term oblong either. It could open up a good discussion about the term and how it could apply to ellipses, although this probably is a little too much for a year 1 classroom. I think I’m leaning towards rectangle as a preference though, as explaining away a special case is, for me, much more preferable than ignoring a whole class of oblongs.

*If you have views on this, whichever way you lean, I’d love to hear them, either in the comments or via social media.*

## Parallelograms

Parallelograms, you know, the weird quadrilaterals that look like a sheared rectangle. These:

I’ve never rally thought that deeply about them, to be honest. They have some uses in angle reasoning lessons, and we need to be able to find their area in the GCSE, but I’ve not thought too deeply about them recently at all.

When teaching how to find the area I normally do this:

It’s a fine method, and easy to show that it works by showing that you can cut the end off, stick.it in the other end and get a rectangle which is clearly of the same area.

But last week I marked a mock exam in which one of my year 11s had done this:

I love this method, it’s much, much nicer than the other. I couldn’t wait to question him. When I did he said that he “couldn’t remember” how to do it, but knee how to find the area of a non right angled triangle so split it into two of them which were congruent using SAS.

I asked him what would happen if you split the parallelogram across the other diagonal. He thought about it for a while, and eventually told me it would be fine because of “how the sine curve is” and because, “the angles add up to 180”.

I was impressed by his reasoning. He has clearly understood this method and generalised the area of a parallelogram in a way I’d never considered. I would have phrased is slightly differently though:

*The area of a parallelogram is equal to the product of two adjecent sides multiple by the sine of one of the angles. (Either will so as Sin x = Sin (180 – x) )*

## Area Puzzle 21

I came across the following area puzzle on Ed’s (@solvemymaths) site.

I found it quite an interesting idea and had a little go at solving it.

First I considered an equilateral triangle, all the angles are 60 degrees so we can see the area would be (x^2 sin (60))/2. As sin 60 = 3^(1/2)/2 it was easy enough to solve.

I then realised I could have used Heron’s Formula, so did it that way too. Luckily I got the same answer:

The square was a tough one:

Then I considered a pentagon, I wasn’t sure how to approach it at first, so I reverted to my favourite shape, the triangle. Split the pentagon into 5 congruent isosceles triangles and solved with trig.

Wolfram alpha gave me the lovely exact answer:

I then considered the hexagonal case, which is really just 6 equilateral triangles.

I approached the decagon in the same manner I had the Pentagon.

And got an equally lovely exact answer:

I enjoyed working through these, and thought it would make a nice lesson to build resilience and cognitive activation. I also thought about what else could be done. What does the sequence of side lengths generated look like? Could an equation be formed to describe it? What if we were looking at the areas of regular polygons with side length six, what would the sequence look like then? All these would make nice investigations.

## A surprising find

The other day I my timehop showed me this lovely little post from last year. It includes “Heron’s Formula” for calculating the area of a triangle, as I read it I remembered thinking it was a little strange that not many people had heard of it before.

Today I was looking through a number of textbooks trying to find a decent set of questions on area, perimeter and volume for my year nines as I wanted to consolidate their learning at the start then move onto surface area. *I’m not a fan of textbook misuse- ie “copy the example and try the questions” but I do sometimes use them for exercises as we have a very limited printing budget and some of them have superb exercises. For a fuller picture on.my view of textbooks, read this.*

I was looking in one of my favourite textbooks:

And I happened across this:

There it is! Plain as day! Heron’s Formula! In a KS3 textbook!

I was disappointed that its function was described and its name wasn’t and there was no mention of why this worked. It basically reduces the question down from a geometry one to a purely algebraic substitution task and I would question the appropriateness of including it in an exercise on area, but still, I was incredibly exciting to find it there!

*Are you a fan of Heron’s Formula? Had you even heard of it? Do you have a favourite textbook? I’d love to hear your views.*